U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon rebuked the prosecutors in Donald Trump’s federal classified documents case, accusing them of “wasting the court’s time” on Thursday for making a sudden request to place partial restrictions on the lawyer for one of Trump’s co-defendants.
According to The Guardian, Cannon abruptly postponed the hearing after receiving the request, which came after prosecutors had initially said they would not seek the lawyer’s disqualification.
“I do want to admonish the government for frankly wasting the court’s time,” Cannon said, adding that she was “disappointed” that one of the prosecutors, David Harbach, had made the request without warning or citing supporting cases from her district, the southern district of Florida.
The hearing was the second of a pair of conflict-of-interest proceedings scheduled for Trump’s co-defendants in the case, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, to be informed of their attorneys’ representation during the grand jury investigation of witnesses who could testify against them during the trial.
Trump and Nauta were first indicted in the case in June on charges pertaining to the alleged illegal retention of national security materials at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort club and efforts to obstruct the government’s retrieval of the documents. With the addition of counts against De Oliveira, they were charged with additional obstruction counts in a superseding indictment unsealed in July.
Prosecutors in special counsel Jack Smith’s office had requested the hearings for Nauta and De Oliveira’s lawyers, Stanley Woodward and John Irving, respectively, over concerns that the attorneys may not be able to fully, and in their best interest represent the two defendants because of split loyalties between them and former clients.
The difficulty arose at the hearing for Nauta when prosecutors said they couldn’t be sure of Woodward’s approach to cross-examining “Trump Employee 4,” who media has identified as Mar-a-Lago IT director Yuscil Taveras. Taveras, who Woodward initially represented during the grand jury investigation, chose to obtain new representation — not paid for by Trump’s political action committee — when prosecutors informed him that he was a target for charges, ultimately leading him to change his sworn testimony.
Prosecutors revealed at the hearing that they now intended to call Taveras as a witness, and told Cannon they believed Woodward should be prevented from participating in cross-examination, or that they should be permitted to question his credibility during closing arguments to the jury.
Prosecutors had previously outlined the cross-examination concern in court filings, but the request to exclude Woodward from closing arguments was new. It appeared to agitate Cannon, who questioned the prosecution about why it was being brought up for the first time at the hearing.
Woodward also raised an objection to the prosecutors’ arguments, explaining that his prior representation of Taveras did not preclude him from attacking his credibility at trial and that he was not comfortable with Nauta deciding on a potential conflict of interest until his role at trial could be resolved. Woodward added that he was not prepared to argue that point because Harbach had just raised it in court Thursday. That assertion earned Cannon’s agreement, especially after Harbach conceded that he did not have supporting cases from the eleventh circuit, which are binding.
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Earlier Thursday, during the first of the conflict-of-interest hearings, De Oliveira told the judge he wanted to retain his Trump PAC-funded lawyer, John Irving, despite Irving having represented three witnesses who could be called by the prosecution to testify against De Oliveira at trial.
“I want to continue to move forward with Mr. Irving,” De Oliveira told Cannon.
Irving’s potential conflicts may have been less of a concern for De Oliveira because Irving had decided ahead of time that his co-counsel, Donnie Murrell, would handle the cross-examination of those witnesses.
At greater issue for De Oliveira appeared to be whether he entirely understood the full extent of what it means to retain a potentially conflicted lawyer as he struggled to explain in his own words what he grasped and earlier told Cannon he could read English better than he could write it. De Oliveira’s language skills have been a hot topic for the Trump legal team for months, sources familiar with the matter told The Guardian.